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After health care rate hikes, Trump falsely boasts he's 'kept rates down'

Republicans tend to blame "Obamacare" for higher premiums. Trump prefers to argue that he's done a great job pushing premiums lower.
A stethoscope sits on an examination table in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, April 8, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
A stethoscope sits on an examination table in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, April 8, 2015. 

Whenever Donald Trump tries to talk about health care, the president nearly always runs into trouble. Two weeks ago, for example, he boasted at a rally that his administration's new association plans are doing "record business" and generating "incredible" numbers. What Trump didn't know was that the plans won't even be available until Sept. 1.

Last night, at a New York fundraiser, the president again tried to dip his toes into the health care waters.

"People are shocked that we've kept their rates down. The increases have been much less than people were projecting that they'd be -- because of what we've done.... We've worked very hard on that."

This isn't just wrong; it's wrong in ways that contradict the usual Republican talking points.

There are certain core truths that are unavoidable. For example, we know that millions of consumers are now paying higher premiums.

We also know that premiums have gone up as a result of Trump's policy decisions. Reporting on the latest data from the Congressional Budget Office, Axios recently explained, "Insurance premiums tend to go up every year, but the magnitude of these increases stems largely from the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate, the expansion of skimpy short-term plans, and the decision last year to cut off the law's cost-sharing payments."

Private insurers from across the country have said the same thing: people are paying more and it's the direct result of the administration's policies.

We also know that were it not for Trump's misguided moves, American consumers would be paying less. Brookings published a fascinating report on this just two weeks ago. I'll assume it's still on the president's to-be-read list.

And then, of course, we also know how Republicans usually try to explain these developments.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) recently argued, for example, that higher premiums have been "solely caused by Obamacare." The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal  added two weeks ago that the rate hikes "are baked into the health law's faulty design."

This is demonstrably wrong -- don't take my word for it; just ask the insurers who are hiking up premiums -- but the unexpected twist in the saga is Trump's entirely new argument.

After the president pushed rates higher, instead of joining his party in blaming the Affordable Care Act, Trump has decided that he and his team have actually kept consumers' rates down. As he put it last night, it's "because of what we've done."

All of this is completely backwards. Rates went up, not down. The president didn't take steps to keep rates low; he took steps to push them higher.

Indeed, as recently as June, Trump himself told an audience, "Just remember, if you see [premiums going up], it is the Democrats' fault."

Maybe he can make up his mind and get back to us?